Still and his wife fiercely guarded his work, and until the Clyfford Still Museum opened, the American public had not seen many of Still’s most artistic gems. When curators began to see the works for the first time ever, the New York Times dubbed the occasion “Unfurling the Hidden Work of a Lifetime.” Since the 2011 opening, more than 500 of the 3,125 willed creations have been displayed with the museum showcasing more than a dozen new works every month. Cataloguing, preserving, mounting and exhibiting Still’s works is an ongoing process, expected to take many more years, making every trip to the museum a new one.
Still was among the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists, known for his dramatic textures, jagged forms and monumental scale. Over the years, the museum’s exhibits have varied to show a kind of depth unique to a single-artist museum, touching on Still’s processes, his signature hues, war-time inspiration and even the mystery of a particular work’s orientation. A 2012-2013 exhibit displayed fascinating comparisons of Still to Vincent Van Gogh.
In addition to this rare collection of artwork, the Clyfford Still museum is also home to an archive of letters, sketchbooks, manuscripts, photo albums and personal effects, which lend inspiration to the museum’s rotating exhibits. While this archive is closed to the public as the museum catalogs this information, researchers are beginning to gain a deeper understanding of the artist. In addition to the exhibits, the museum’s Still Life blog provides a frequent update on the many discoveries being unearthed from the artist’s amassed archive.
A stunning, concrete museum
“You can turn the lights out,” Clyfford Still once said. “The paintings will carry their own fire.” The museum’s wondrous architecture creates a place where artificial light is hardly necessary thanks to natural lighting that spills into the building. Cast of textured concrete, the museum features a sky-lit floor of galleries.
Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture designed the 28,500-square-foot structure to capture Colorado’s wondrous light and all of its brilliant qualities. This deliberate ode to light allows each masterpiece to stand out in its own natural spotlight.
In short, the museum creates an unrivaled experience, which Peter Plagens of the Smithsonian Magazine can attest to. He wrote: “To stand in the a gallery at the Clyfford Still Museum will be among the best art museum experiences anywhere.”
Conservation at the Clyfford Still Museum
The City and County of Denver, when gifted with this impressive collection, took on an ongoing commitment to preserve the Clifford Still Collection. No easy task, the museum’s facility includes a main-floor conservation studio, viewable to the public through large windows.
Conservators are faced with a number of challenges as they restore works that might have aged or sustained damage over the decades. The process – and the care that Denver pours into preserving Still’s collection – is an art in and of itself.
Clyfford Still Museum
1250 Bannock St.